The Book of Yourself Newsletter

Issue 14: January 2023

Dear Friends,

The day dawned with a light layer of frost over the garden and the roofs. The sun came out and by mid-afternoon the frost had melted away. The sky remained clear all day and now the sun is setting in an intense orange glow that radiates its warmth over the nondescript town, spreading an aura of serenity over the silhouettes of the houses and the leafless trees. I went upstairs looking for the moon, but it does not seem to be up yet. There is no wind. But there is a subtle change in the air. I heard the blackbirds singing quietly for the first time this past Sunday and today the one in the neighborhood broke out into a full-throated aria. In winter the blackbirds do not sing, so when they begin again, I take it as a sign that springtime is on its way with its fragile beauty and resurgent life. We’ve had a rather mild winter – which was just as well on account of the energy crisis – and now these consummate meistersingers of the northern hemisphere are proclaiming the advent of warmer days to come. This new year 2023 AD seems to have gotten off to a speedy start. I find it hard to believe that we are already a month and a week into it. The prospects are not very promising, though hope springs eternal. The relentless march of history, though history repeats itself. And one can begin to see why, namely that as long as our consciousness is rooted in the past it cannot help but follow its inherent compulsion to repeat. So psychologically time is indeed our enemy.

I had gone ahead and announced the new edition of the online course The Book of Yourself for this first semester (February-May) but since only two people registered, I had to cancel it. However, at the invitation of the participants in the second edition of the course this past Autumn, we decided to continue our journey together by meeting on the second Saturday of every month, beginning this coming weekend. The thing is that the course content is too extensive and rich to cover properly in the time we dedicated to it, so lots of questions remained unexamined. We were all very touched as well by the quality of the dialogue, and we felt it would be a pity to break it off abruptly like that. So we are giving ourselves the opportunity to share further in this very human exploration of ourselves. From now on the themes will be chosen by the participants and I will do my best to provide some relevant reference material for study and as an aid to our unfolding dialogue. The topic for the upcoming meeting is ‘What Is’. I attempted to bring its different aspects together in a text that I thought might also be worth sharing through this Newsletter as an invitation to further reflection.

At first sight the topic of what is might seem rather vague since it does not refer to any specific content. In the context of K’s teachings, however, this term is endowed with great significance. K used it a great deal in such expressions as ‘seeing what is’, ‘staying with what is’, ‘understanding what is’, etc. Generally, what is (sometimes in italics, sometimes in quotes, sometimes without them) is equivalent to ‘the fact’. So facts and what is come to the same thing. The word ‘fact’ (from Latin factum, the past participle of facere, to make or to do, therefore what has been made or done) is rather static and etymologically it refers to the past, whereas what is refers to an active and ever-changing present that needs to be followed at its own speed, so not from a static mental position but from an unhindered and dynamic one.

The fundamental issue surrounding these terms is the quality of non-dual perception that we can bring to bear on everything that’s happening in our lives, be it inwardly or outwardly. K’s emphasis on self-knowledge places the accent on the inner, where the sense of separation between the observer and the observed makes for an enduring state of self-contradiction. That is why he constantly addresses the question of staying with such things as loneliness, fear, sorrow, envy, confusion, greed, etc. From K’s perspective, this quality of non-separation from what is is the key to the resolution of all our relational and psychological problems. That’s a big claim to make, but he was deadly serious about it, so it seems to me very relevant that we begin with such a subject, because, if K is right, it holds the potential for significant change.

K’s central concern remains invariant, namely facing the disorder in the world, our total responsibility for it, finding a solution through self-knowledge and releasing a quality of total energy that opens the way to a timeless state of wholeness and creativity in which reality can emerge. As he says, the problems of the world are the expression of our own problems in relationship. So, if we want to change the world – and any sane person would – then the logical consequence is that we must change our relationships, which means changing ourselves. To bring this change about we must know ourselves as we actually are, because only facts can be transformed, not the utopian idealization of what we would like to be. And to understand what is we must know how to approach it without deceiving ourselves or being afraid of it.

What is is constantly changing, so its understanding is from moment to moment, not through the accumulation of knowledge or the prism of ideas and beliefs. When we seek a system or method to understand ourselves, the method shapes our approach according to a pattern that prevents direct perception. So, K concludes that there is no method of self-knowledge and no authority in this field. This would be, therefore, an invitation to our own spontaneous creativity. This is important because K’s general diagnosis is that most of us are not creative but gramophone records repeating songs of experience. His approach to self-understanding through seeing ourselves in the mirror of relationship is itself creative and an opening to the universal creativity he is talking about.

When we look into relationship, we see that we approach it with a cause or motive. The motive is the product of thought, which is mechanical. Thought is limited and self-isolating and where there is isolation there must be conflict. For K this is a psychological and relational law. And where there is conflict, there is no relationship. We can accept conflict as the inevitable way of life, but if we do not accept it (because life is relationship and without it life has no meaning), we begin to discover that our self-interested motives are the cause of isolation and therefore conflict. So the primary factor of division and conflict is this psychological process in oneself. K then asks how we approach the fact of isolation and conflict. If we approach it with a motive, then we are back in the same process that gave rise to the conflict in the first place. So there is no solution that way. The solution, as he sees it, begins with seeing that one is not different from the fact. When we look at ourselves without a motive, we look without the past that is the self, the self being the product of thought feeding on itself. This self-referential movement of thought is the real problem. The choiceless awareness of what is stops this machinery of thought and there is freedom from conflict, a selfless state that is creative and new.

The avoidance of what is is for K the beginning of the corruption of the mind. He uses the word ‘corruption’ in its etymological sense, namely, to break things up altogether, to fragment. He traces this corruption to the substitution of the actual for abstractions, so that the fact recedes and the word, the symbol become more important than what they represent. The following of authority, with its imitation and conformity, is another factor of corruption, for it implies molding oneself into a pattern and going against what one actually is, which denies freedom. All this breaks up the fact of what one is, one’s integrity, whereas the fact is complete in itself. For K this completeness of the fact is constant unbroken movement (it’s always changing) and it opens the door to infinity. It establishes a connection between the fact/what is and the undivided wholeness of what he has been calling reality or truth, the source of creation.

For K duality arises when the mind tries to move away from what is. This moving away he identifies with the emergence of the thinker as the movement of comparison between the past and the future, whereas there is only the fact, e.g., pain. The non-dual state is to observe pain without deviating from it. K maintains that this transforms pain because, psychologically, there is pain only when we move away from the fact. So the fact, as he says, needs no transformation because it is whole in itself and beyond the duality we bring to bear on it. This applies to all sorts of feelings and psychological states. As we remain with the feelings themselves, not with the feelings generated by the words we associate with them, the feelings not only reveal their true nature but, according to K, open up to a timeless dimension. For K there is no time in facts, no movement of the thinker, of the self as past or future. The difficulty is in separating the feeling from the words associated with it. Loneliness, for example, evokes associations of pain and the corresponding fear. If we remove these associations, then loneliness is no longer frightening, and we can listen to what it has to tell us instead of running away from it.

The fundamental issue is how we approach our psychological problems. Etymologically, the word ‘problem’ means something thrown at you, a challenge that must be answered. The first thing to realize is that we are our qualities, that we are anger, greed, envy, guilt, violence, sorrow, fear, pleasure, etc. We are that. From K’s perspective, the fact itself is its own seed of truth, its own teaching. Because the fact is in constant motion, it is not mechanical but creative. So, if I am aware that I am confused, that very fact is its own seed of truth, which has its own natural unfolding or flowering if one does not interfere with it. This flowering of the seed of truth is the insight that frees us from such psychological struggles.

All this requires sensitivity, being aware of all that is happening inside and outside. We discover that the outward disorder is the expression of our disordered minds. Disorder is conflict, contradiction, opposing desires, duality. As we have already seen, duality arises because we do not know how to deal with what is and so we project what should be, the ideal. The ideal is unreal, so if we want to understand what is, we must discard the ideal. Understanding what is also means approaching it without recognition or labeling, without condemnation or identification, without the word. The word is the past with its associations of experience so that it is no longer new. The past then dictates our actions and enters into a contradiction with the present, which is the continuation of disorder. So we must observe without the past. Then there is an observation of fact that is free from the opposite. This is the beginning of order, which K calls virtue. This virtue is necessary to discover reality or truth and to bring about a new world.

This is a fascinating topic whose subtlety and urgency deserve our close attention. Naturally, it is not merely a matter of figuring out its conceptual complexity but of experimenting with it. K suggested that we look at things outwardly without moving our eyes because eye movement stimulates thought. I take this to be an invitation to look inwardly without moving the ‘inner eye’, i.e., the observer, so that our own consciousness may reveal its actual nature and flower in the light of truth. No small task, and yet the most immediate thing in the world, for it is on the act of perception that the order or disorder in our lives and in the world at large depends.

Take good care, amigos, and stay with what is,


Photos: J. Gómez Rodríguez: 1. Sunset, Het Bovenwater, Lelystad, NL; 2. Sunset, Thunersee, CH.

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